First Things First

By Kelly Shaw

As we begin a new year, it is often common to set goals for the new year. It is also helpful to reflect on the priorities we have in our lives and see if the actions, words, and thoughts of our lives match what we hold to be most important.

Jesus was asked by the scribes if He had to sum up all of the Law into one commandment what would that be. 

“The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

While we all often camp out on the first part of what Jesus says to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we often leave out loving our neighbor as ourselves. 

Loving our neighbor here does not merely imply the neighbor with whom we are best friends. Loving our neighbor doesn’t just mean the people at church. 

Loving our neighbor as Jesus illustrates in the parable of the Good Samaritan is often someone different than us, sometimes our enemy. (Matthew 5:44)  For the Jews, the Samaritans were their enemies. Although it is not necessarily our enemy, it is likely someone who comes from a different background.

When Jesus quoted the second part, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” He was pouring new meaning into an old Scripture. This Scripture in Leviticus 19:18 referred to Jews loving other Jewish neighbors. 

However, Jesus pours into this statement a breadth and depth of what it means to love one’s neighbor that had not been said before. He was calling Jews to love those who had no idea who God even was. 

Jesus is calling us to reach out of our comfort zone and love. It is this call to love our neighbors as ourselves that is at the core of mobilization. In order for our hearts to be fully aligned with Jesus, we must love our neighbor who is from another culture or speaks another language.

Mobilization is not an afterthought in God’s divine priorities. Out of our love for God flows the  mobilization of the Church to see the neighbors at our workplaces, in our communities, in the next city or village down the road, and across our borders inundated with our love.

We are called to pour out love – not out of our convenience or abundance – but love that is willing to sacrifice and be inconvenienced. We are called to pour out love that goes beyond our natural selves and taps into the supernatural, divine love that has been poured into us. 

We are not called to love our neighbor in our own strength, but we are called to love them with God’s love because God first loved us. To love love when we are mistreated, to love when we are rejected, to love when no love is returned, to love when we are hated, to love when we are scorned, to love in the way that Jesus loved us. (John 15:12)

Are you reaching out with the love of God to the neighbors in your sphere of influence? Are you looking for opportunities to express love to those who have no hope?

We must first do it ourselves and then call others into the great and glorious activity of God’s Kingdom – loving our neighbors. 

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) 

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